First-Generation Academic Journey

Here at the Center for Academic Success, we pave the way for our first-generation students to succeed.

A first-generation college student is the first person in their family to attend college and complete their bachelor's degree. First-generation students share the common experience of having fewer role models in for the college process, less exposure to college life, financial aid being a determining factor, and uncertainty regarding the college search and admissions process. Arriving on campus can be a complete offset to these students who often face the imposter phenomenon when trying to adjust to a new environment. Our Center for Academic Success works to alleviate the stressors that first-generation students face and offer perpetual support as students make their way through college. We personalize all of our advice and guidance as we know that one answer never fits all student situations. No Lake Forest student makes it to graduation totally on their own and we will guide your personal and intellectual growth as you experience these transitions.

Anna Picture

Anna Palianichka, A First-Generation College Student


Major: Business with a Marketing Concentration, Minor in Legal Studies

Extracurricular Activities: American Marketing Association, Gummere Fellow, Delta Gamma, Women In Business

Anna Palianichka's Journey Map for her first year at college:

Josseline picture

Josseline Manzanares, A First-Generation College Student


Major: Business, Asian Studies with a concentration in Chinese minor 

Extracurricular activities:  Latinos Unidos, AfroDance, Chinese Club, Unidas, Chicago Scholars, iMentor 

Josseline Manzanares' Journey Map to graduating on-time:

Anna Palianichka speaks about her background

I grew up in a small town just outside of Lake Forest. I spent my whole life in that town. Being around the same people for eighteen years of my life was comforting to me. The shared experiences, connections, and memories I had with these people made it difficult for me to deal with change.   

Entering college, I had to let go of all the comfort I had in my hometown. I had to step outside of my shell and talk to new people, something I never got used to doing growing up. Even though I was close to home, I still felt as if I were in my own bubble that no one in my hometown could enter. I was already home sick as soon as my parents left after helping me move into my dorm. 

Learn more about Anna

I had a striking realization as soon as my parents left my first day. That is my purpose for pursuing a higher education. It registered to me that my family is who I am doing this for. My parents both immigrated to the United States in their early twenties. They risked everything they had to allow my brother and I to have the life they never had.   

 My family has always been my support and backbone. When I started my first job at a restaurant, my mom was there. She visited me whenever she had the time, spoke to my managers about how I was doing, and made sure I was all right. When I excelled in school, my dad was there. Even though he worked long hours and would come home exhausted, he would make time to quiz me on my notes and help me practice for my exams. When I made the honor roll at school, I would look to see my grandparents, smiling at me from the audience at my award ceremonies. On days that I felt like I was at an all-time low, my brother would be there to give me advice and assure me that everything would work out. All these people contributed to my success in all my endeavors. It was certainly a combined effort from myself and the people I love that got me to the point I am at today.  

 Going to college is not only my parent's dream for me, but it is also my dream for myself. I make my own path, and the decisions I make have a lot of impact not only on myself but on my family too. My family is my motivation and the driving force behind everything that I do. Lake Forest College has opened so many opportunities for me to make my mark and helped me feel as though I have found my true self. Lake Forest has made it easy for me to communicate with my parents about the different aspects of student life, as entering college is a big transition. There are so many resources and ways to get involved on campus while building long-lasting connections with the wonderful faculty and students. I am the happiest I have ever been pursuing my education and making my family proud!

Josseline Manzanares speaks about her background

All my life I have attended school in the city of Chicago. Growing up in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) educational system was very eye-opening. The teachers there show you what it is like to work and exceed with what you have… even if it’s not much. I went to school with some of the most hard-working and genuine people I have ever met. As children of immigrants, we learn from a young age how to prosper from nothing just like our parents/grandparents. Leaving that beautiful city where I was always surrounded by diverse environments and busy streets to become part of that 50% of CPS students who graduate from college was mind-blowing. 

Learn more about Josseline

Growing up in a Spanish-speaking household made my educational journey two times more interesting. Transitioning from Spanish to English classes at a young age was difficult, but the elementary school I went to knew how to help children like us transition beautifully; Especially when most of our parents couldn’t help. My mother being from Honduras and my father being from Mexico gave me two different aspects of what it meant to be Latina. However, one thing was always clear, family is our main source of motivation. My parents never lacked in providing me with the support to do good in school. While they didn’t have much to provide for me academically, they taught me what it is like to be compassionate, socially intelligent, and to work hard to be the best version of myself. That has become the root of my extensive effort and success. 

When I first arrived here at Lake Forest College I saw and felt my parents feel out of place for once. I saw the way they glanced around not finding a single POC, but in that moment I knew how incredibly proud they were of all that I had built for myself. I saw them publicly cry for the first time when they finished helping me move in. Watching them tear up made me even more proud of who I was and where I had come from. I had a hard time finding comfort on campus when they left. My family was all I knew. I have grown up raising all 5 of my siblings and watching my parents work long hours to provide for us what they never had. It was my turn to work hard for what they still had yet to discover. My education has made my parents feel every single one of their sacrifices was worth it; That to me will always be a motive to keep going. I have watched them fall and get back up numerous times, always leading with their head held high to keep moving forward. My perseverance and strength come from those two who are the most generous people I have known.

Knowing my parents couldn’t afford to pay my way through school led me to seek opportunities beyond sight. I worked really hard throughout high school and that summer before my first year at a higher education institution. I knew I was going to make it because, with parents and family like mine, there was no way I wouldn’t be able to find my way through. While being so independent all my life, I found it difficult to reach out for help, especially financially. Lake Forest has made that fade away. While the school has allowed me to flourish in my independence, they have also handed me immense support and resources when I have needed it the most: from the financial aid office to the business office. I will forever be grateful for the way they reward first-generation students for simply being here and giving it their all. I have found a community where I don’t ever feel incapable, out of place, or alone. While being away from my family and friends was difficult, I have found a family of friends here who also have had some of the same experiences as me. There is such a high percentage of international students who make this school feel soulful and accepting. My time here has been grand and I will forever cherish the journey that it took for me to become who I am today. 

Anna Palianichka speaks about finances

Throughout my college application and admissions process, there was one crucial thing I was worried about, more than anything else. That being the amount of financial aid I would receive. I was able to figure out my finances once I filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Lake Forest College uses your FAFSA data to determine your federal aid eligibility. I made sure to contact our Office of Financial Aid to figure out how much financial aid I would receive coming in as a first-year student. I was educated on the different types of financial aid that there is, which includes loans, grants, and work-study programs.

Learn more about Anna's experience financing college

I was looking for additional scholarship opportunities, and my admissions counselorinformed me that Lake Forest College offers merit based scholarships based on Highschool GPA, ACT, and SAT scores. I applied for a merit-based scholarship which certainly alleviated a lot of my initial tuition cost.

Additionally, Lake Forest College offers a Future Forester Visit Program. Through this program, I was able to visit campus to get a feel for the school before attending and get financial support while I did so! Visiting campus certainly made me fall in love with Lake Forest. I felt like I had found my home before even beginning my education here. My visit helped me make the decision that I wanted to reside on campus instead of commuting after I saw all the students all over campus engaging with each other and entering the beautiful buildings. I highly recommend you visit campus! If it worries you that this could be expensive, Lake Forest College offers an  admitted student reimbursement visit program to cover travel and meal expenses! Do not let the fear of expenses make you miss getting such a crucial experience.

Students at Lake Forest College can also apply for the Special Circumstances Form if you feel the FAFSA (federal application) does not provide an accurate or complete picture of your family’s financial situation. The forms on this page may help to explain and document your personal, special circumstance(s).

Lake Forest College offers more scholarships, and you can have access to that information using this link.

Something that also supported me in terms of finances was the book grant I receieved. I was able to use this grant to purchase textbooks through our bookstore for my academic year. Buying books through our bookstore was a quick and easy ordering process. There are a variety of new and used textbooks with an average savings of 60% off list price Marketplace items. There is also a price match guarantee on new books, free shipping before every term, and the ability to sell your textbooks!

Josseline Manzanares speaks about family struggles and communication strategies

Emotional (Parental Detachment)

One of the most stressful things before leaving off for college as a first-generation student includes talking to your parents/family about how they can help you from their end. It becomes very evident that there isn’t much they can help you with academically as they had it differently. It often feels easy to think that you’ve had to learn everything on your own, which in most cases is true. However, learning to communicate with your parents is very essential at a time when you’ll need support the most. Parents often become overbearing when distance is placed between them and their children, let alone their firstborn. 

It can be very difficult to allow them the space to understand that they can’t dictate how well or what you do in school. While they might claim to understand, we know that it’s not fully true. They don’t understand because they don’t know what it is actually like. Their forms of pressure and standard usually root from them knowing the great things we are capable of. Instead of arguing against it, try to teach them how to be there for you, through verbal motivation and comprehension. Simply express your gratitude for their good wishes, but keep in mind that they won’t ever be able to walk in our shoes, and neither will we be able to walk in theirs.

We as first-gen are typically the eldest of our siblings, setting an example for them is important, but setting an example for our parents is also important. We must let them grow into the idea that we are becoming more independent by the day. We should incorporate them in our journey even if it’s just conversational. They want to feel and be part of your success. Again, it might feel like they are trying to live for you and feel accomplishment through you, but try to understand that they didn’t get the chance to live what we are doing. Parents become overwhelmed when they fear losing control of a situation which in this case, is you. 

Leaving for college means you’ll no longer have a curfew, scheduled chores, supervision, or need to give explanations. They are scared because they want you to be and do good. The more you let them be part of your life, the less they will try to force themselves into it. Even if you just start sending them pictures of your breakfast, it’ll help the need for them to call just to scold you for “not eating”. Make a schedule with your parent(s), when will you call them? When will you see them? When will you update them? When will you tell them about your new friends and classes? The more you initiate these things, the less they will feel the need to overbear you. Let them adjust to your absence slowly, it’s difficult. Don’t shut them out, and most importantly: be patient. Show them you are capable of taking care of yourself.

Financial (Support with Finances)

If your parents are helping you through school, take a step back and be thankful for how lucky you are. Many times we are faced with the issue of not having financially stable families, and that is okay. We as children sometimes feel the need to not be a financial burden. However, it is important to know that our education is an investment. Even if you are the only one investing, it will all be worth your time and effort. Some parents don’t believe in investing in higher education and that can become something to deal with. Families who already fear their economic standing can or often try to diminish the idea of taking out a loan or having to pay money out of pocket for school. However, that shouldn’t stop you. 

Explaining how we are going to finance our money to our parents feels very unnecessary at first. While trying to explain every financial detail to them might feel frustrating, it is the best way to help them learn what we as students are also learning along the way regardless of their support. We can teach them that investing is smart and allow them to lose that fear. On their behalf, they can help you learn how to budget your expenses more/better. Our parents might not have the capability to help us entirely, but they can help in other ways. They might be willing to send care packages which can include packaged foods, clothes, beauty/health care products, or spending money. Believe it or not, all of these small things do take a toll on your finances, and our parents have lived through that enough to know it. 

You can also ask your parents/guardians can help you learn how to file documents like taxes, school/job-related applications, or other government files that you might need help with. I find that parents love to feel like they are finally helping/teaching you with something when you are often so independent with your life. You can always ask for a second set of eyes through the school or other resource centers like the financial aid office, the business office, or professors.

Mental Health (Generational Stigma)

Mental health is a topic that is relatively new in our parents' generation. It’s safe to say that participating in a generation that takes into consideration physical, emotional, and mental well-being is extremely valuable. There are many issues within families due to the incapability of accepting or seeking help. As we see what makes a person lack energy, motivation, or care parents sometimes only see the lack of effort to be useful in life. As young people, we are often deemed with the need to always be active, on the go, and continuously working. 

It is important to note that our parents grew up forced to live by that which is why they don’t understand the importance of it. They don’t know what it is like to rest and take care of themselves from within. We have watched our parents put their emotions, needs, and restfulness aside to provide for our families. Though, that doesn’t mean we need to do the same. Most of our parents lack emotional compassion, understanding, and consciousness past easy repair. We need to be sympathetic during times when they don’t understand why we are taking a nap after work, or why we are reading a book instead of doing homework. They were never allowed the chance, the time, or the space to do so. Invite them to a face mask, they’ll say yes eventually.

As we become more independent it becomes easier to create an environment for yourself to rest without guilt, to refresh your brain/body after a long day, and to take care of yourself after a difficult one. In order to continue to flourish we need to keep watering ourselves. Learning to take care of ourselves comes in many ways, and understanding our mental health is one of the most important forms of it. We see how some of our parents are burnt out far beyond measure and it is heartbreaking to accept. We shouldn’t feel guilty for not wanting the same for ourselves. While we can admire the work our parents have done, we can also learn from the mistakes they have committed along the way.

Growing out of stressful habits becomes much more attainable when you yourself have learned to only care about what is good for your well-being. Before leaving for college there is this need to listen to everything our parents have to say, but that fades when we realize that we are our own person. We do have valid emotions, we have valid needs, and we have a valid need to rest. We work hard every day and just as we work hard, we deserve to let our bodies fuel and regain the energy we have used up. Only we have a say in that. We can decide to build on the energy necessary to help our parents learn from us as well. As they become older, they also see more of their long-term faults, and we shouldn’t shame them for it, but we should have conversations with them. Believe it or not, they will one day understand. 

Here at the college, there are plenty of resources regarding mental health, physical health, and emotional understanding. The school has numerous trained health professionals to help us promote our journey to diminish the stigma against overall mental health. Everything regarding your brain and body takes a toll on your health and we shouldn’t shut that out simply because we feel like our parents wouldn’t understand. We need to take care of ourselves in order to be capable of all the amazing things our bodies and hard work can do. There are also plenty of support groups, events, and fundraisers amongst students for the same reason, especially if you aren’t comfortable sharing with other adults yet. But when you are, check/reach out to the Health and Wellness Center  and take a look at everything the school has to offer to help you feel and do good. Some of these resources include therapy, group therapy, counseling, etc.

We don’t necessarily need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to seek these opportunities. Many times therapy helps us become aware of how to regulate and feel our emotions as adults who are still aware of their inner child. It can help us learn to communicate better. It can help us feel like we aren’t alone. It can help us with so much, so don’t be ashamed to do something good for yourself and your future well-being. We are all human.

Anna Palianichka speaks about getting socially connected

Once I had my finances figured out, I had to focus on the other aspects of my college experience. This included finding my sense of belonging. Coming into a brand-new place with all the new people can be intimidating. As a first-generation college student, I felt like I was even more disadvantaged and wanted to do my best to fit in. Luckily, everyone I met and had encounters with was extremely welcoming. My academic advisor told me that I should try and get involved with campus life and join some clubs. Using My.involvement, I was able to scroll through different organizations LFC has and gauge my interests to decide what I wanted to do.

Learn more about how Anna got connected at Lake Forest College

I decided to try out greek life. Not knowing anything about greek life as no one in my family had never done it, I was skeptical on how I would like it. Despite my concerns, I decided to try something new to encourage myself that putting myself out there to meet new people can only benefit me. I went through formal recruitment and accepted my bid from Delta Gamma. Delta Gamma has paved the way for me to consistently be surrounded by a group of educated, strong women who share the same value principles as I. Greek life is stigmatized on the media for its superficial stereotypes, but here at Lake Forest College, I can honestly attest that each and every woman involved in the Panhellenic Association is genuine and extremely supportive of one another. 

I also figured out early on that I wanted to pursue a degree in business. Taking Principles of Marketing in the first semester of my first year certainly made me find my interest in marketing! I joined the American Marketing Association and was able to network with a bunch of fellow students, professors, and the presenters who came to speak to us. 

My advice is to find something you are passionate about, even if it is a small hobby, and get involved! The people you will meet and all you will learn will help you adjust to college life. Doing so will also give you a break from academics to truly explore what it is that you want to do. For me, joining different organizations created a balance in my everyday schedule and taught me how to properly make use of my time. 

Josseline Manzanares speaks about jobs off-campus/on-campus

It is vital to ensure comfort in your finances before taking on school/outside loans, payment plans, or any other/extra expenses during college. As not everyone has the privilege to receive full help (financially) from their parents, it is a highlight to point out that the school can also help you manage. Faculty and staff can help you not only find but also prepare for any on-campus jobs and/or off-campus jobs. 

The Career Advancement Center is dedicated to helping our students succeed in the workforce. The CAC can first help you build your resume, create accounts for job-searching sites (LinkedIn, Handshake, and Indeed), and keep you updated on any networking/workshop events to help you land a job more independently. 

Learn more about Josseline's experience with on-campus jobs and the CAC

On-campus jobs are very easy to apply to. While students who are accepted for work-study (in their Financial Aid) are hired with priority, there are still always openings for those who aren’t doing work-study. For example, you can apply to the sports and rec center, Parkhurst (cafeteria, boomers, the market, Deerpath cafe, etc), the library, Teacher Assistant, Admissions, and the list goes on. You can go to these spots on campus and ask directly if they are hiring or you can also see listings on  Handshake  for open positions.

While there are students who prefer looking for an off-campus job, we make sure to help them account for external factors. Modes of transportation are very important, while we have the UP-N Metra line in town, we also have access to  parking permits   for 3rd and 4th-year students who have cars on campus. Students often look for jobs in town (Walgreens, Jewel Osco, Authentico, Chief’s Pub, etc) as they are within walking distance. Though, In fall/winter, you must stay committed and motivated to travel to-and-from work in harsh weather conditions. Again, you can visit nearby locations and ask if they have open/available positions and then ask the CAC for help submitting your Job Application and polishing your Resume. 

Whether it’s through work-study, an internship, or an off-campus job. There are many opportunities to grow financially. During the school year, some students find it difficult to manage classes while also working. These kinds of students usually prefer to work during the summer, during breaks, and/or weekends. However, deciding which option would be best and manageable for you is most important. If you decide that working part-time/full-time is what you need then feel free to make an appointment with your advisor. Contact them personally through email or contact the CAC - scroll to the bottom of the page to find contact/location info regarding the office.

Anna Palianichka speaks on imposter syndrome in the classroom

I had no idea how it was going to be attending my first class in college. I walked in, and my first-year studies teacher welcomed me with a smile on her face. I always make it a point to introduce myself to my professors and greet them to make a stellar first impression, and I did so on my first day. 

Learn more about how Anna overcame imposter syndrome

We began going through the syllabus which seemingly had an endless number of assignments. I realized that I would have to prepare myself to take on a larger workload than I had in high school. I was nervous I would not be able to accomplish what I wanted to. Instant panic set in, my initial thought being that I was scared I would not be able to make myself and my family proud. Well, I was wrong.  

After my initial panic about the load of assignments, I had a required meeting with my advisor, who was also the professor of my class, Dawn-Abt Perkins. She cleared away all my worries, and showed me how it only takes one person to completely change a student's experience. Professor Dawn gave me an empty schedule and advised me to write down all my due dates. She also made sure I had a planner to log my homework and fun, personal events. She called it "something to look forward to." So, I got to it! I wrote down all my upcoming math tests but also made room to figure out when I wanted to visit my family, which I always look forward to. My advice to you is to do exactly as I did! Get a planner, a calendar you can hang in your room, and make to-do lists. Time management is so vital, especially as you embark on your journey as a first-generation college student. It is easy to get discouraged when you make yourself believe you cannot accomplish anything but realize that approaching situations with an "I can do it" or a "I will get through this" mentality will help you in every aspect of your life. 

Beyond time management, I learned very quickly how much class participation can affect your grade. I remember raising my hand for the first time in front of my class, something that might seem miniscule to someone else, but for me, it was terrifying. What if my peers think my answer is silly? What if my answer is wrong? All these questions consumed my brain. I realized that hiding my voice in the classroom would only hurt me. I knew that I understood the material, as I had spent a lot of time studying it. So, why not share what I have to say? Even if I give the wrong answer, my effort to try and find the answer in the first place is what matters. Soon, my professor complimented me for my participation, and I felt so incredibly supported. First-generation students specifically feel as though they are not as smart as their other peers as they grew up in different circumstances and therefore avoid participating. This must change. I wish all students could see my point that finding your academic voice is so important. Stop being afraid to say what you want to say and do not let other people scare you from doing so. 

If you find yourself struggling to participate in class, meet with your professor! Our professors are very understanding and want to help you when you are struggling.

Do not be afraid to ask for help, in fact, you should take advantage of the resources that are available to you, as not many students have as much as we do here at Lake Forest. Asking for help fosters resilience among students to take initiative over the progress of their studies. Often times, first-generation students believe asking for help is a weakness. Getting to that vulnerable point seems like the worst idea imaginable. However, asking for help will always benefit you as it increases your productivity and connects you with people with a different skillset than you who you can learn from. I for one struggled a lot in my economics class, so I scheduled a stand in appointment at the Quantitative Readiness Center. My tutor and I would go through all of my questions and not once did I regret going to a tutoring session. My grade improved drastically as the tutoring sessions were the perfect extra practice I needed. And it was all because I made the decision to stop thinking that asking for help is a weakness, in fact, it is one of my greatest strengths now. Schedule a tutoring appointment with this link.

Find your support system! Contact our academic mentors from the Center for Academic Success who can assist you with any barrier you come across. We are here for you.

Josseline Manzanares speaks about academic support resources

Being here at Lake Forest College means having support all around you, always. Coming in as a First-gen can be very nerve-wracking. The rigorous balance between courses, packed schedules, and work/social life takes some time to master. However, don’t let that stop you from looking around and seeing all the help available to you.

Learn more about resources on campus

For commuters: While studying in the library might not be the best option for you, you can always find yourself open to studying in the Commuters Lounge which can be found in the basement of Deerpath Hall (North Campus). You can also help yourself to the lounge space on the main floor. If you seek a more social ambient, the Student Center has plenty of spaces to study with your friends. There is room in the sky box, the tables in front of boomers, beside the Pearson rooms, the Wood Lounge, and even the tables outside the Wood Lounge. Meal plans and Flex Dollars are also available for commuters, simply call Food Services at (847) 735-5225. 

Writing Center (WC): The Writing Center is always open to students who wish to receive help or tutoring in a broad range of subjects and classes. It can be found in the basement of Hotchkiss in Middle Campus. The writing center can help you outline/revise an essay, study for an exam, gain practice for a class, and host you for weekly tutoring sessions. You can make always make an appointment or walk in to see their times of availability. Their staff is incredibly friendly and all tutors are current students at the college to make you feel more comfortable and understood. The Writing Center also has the Quantitative Resource Center (QRC) and the Science Resource Center (SRC) right next to it if you need help in more specific classes. The QRC focuses on BUSN, FIN, ECON, and Math classes, while the SRC focuses on Intro to BIO and CHEM classes. 

Career Advancement Center (CAC): If you find yourself struggling to put together your resume, cover letter, job application, or your LinkedIn/Handshake/Indeed profile: make an appointment with the CAC. They can connect you to alumni, partnering companies/schools, internships, and jobs. They have so many resources available to students in all career paths. Inclusively, they have a four-year Career Pathways program which you can sign up for to help you from the very beginning, the program specializes in 5 different categories: 1. Business/Finance/Data Science, 2. Creative Arts and Communication, 3. Law and Public Service, 4. Science and Health Care, and 5. Build Your Own. You can join multiple pathways to help you gain the skills, experience, and knowledge you might need in all your areas of interest. They also have many other resources (like interview practice/skills, dress attire, professional shots, etc) that you can take a look at on their page. You can also stop by the CAC in room 256 located in Brown Hall (middle campus).

Center for Academic Success (CAS): If you find yourself struggling academically overall, don’t hesitate to reach out to the CAS. The CAS can help first-year students with their First Year Student Transition Support Program, Peer Mentors, and an Academic Probation Support Program. All of these are available for your success. College is hard and there is no reason to feel hesitant about asking for help. Sometimes college success goes beyond doing well in your classes, but also taking the right classes, managing your time wisely, and allowing yourself to take advantage of all the support and more. As a rising senior, you might even find yourself trying to fit in your credits and/or requirements which is also something the CAS can help you strategize and complete. The CAS has connections to the Writing Center, QRC, and SRC which can also be of much help.